Biden aims to rally world leaders behind Ukraine in U.N. remarks

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Biden aims to rally world leaders behind Ukraine in U.N. remarks

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will use his remarks at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday to rally the world in support of Ukraine as part of a broader call for countries to protect the established international order.

Russia’s war in Ukraine will “feature prominently” in Biden’s address as he plans to lay out how the invasion violates a central tenet of the U.N. charter around protecting countries’ borders and sovereignty, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

“He will speak to everyone around the world, those that have joined our broad-based coalition to support Ukraine and those who so far have stood on the sidelines, that now is a moment to stand behind the foundational principles of the charter,” Sullivan said Tuesday ahead of the remarks.

Biden’s remarks come at a perilous time on a number of fronts. Russia’s war in Ukraine has upended global food supplies and threatens to tip Europe into a recession this winter as the continent braces for a surge in energy costs. He is also facing heightened tensions with China, which has shown signs of increasing aggression toward Taiwan.

The president could also use the speech to respond to Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons and troop mobilization, according to a senior administration official.

The president will also hit on the wider issues of climate change, the need to better prepare for public health threats, like the Covid pandemic, and the benefits of democracies over autocracies.

Meanwhile, at home, Biden has been warning about the internal threats to America’s own democratic values. He has repeatedly accused former President Donald Trump and his supporters of promoting an extreme ideology that threatens democracy in rare prime-time remarks earlier this month. 

“We’re at an inflection point,” Biden said at a fundraiser Tuesday evening in New York, adding that what happens “in the next two to three years is going to determine what this country looks like 30 years” and warning about what he called the “MAGA crowd.”

During the gathering Wednesday, Biden will also announce a more than $100 million commitment toward global food security and lay out his efforts to restore America’s global leadership by delivering on commitments around global health, climate change and emerging technologies, Sullivan said.

Biden comes into the meeting on firmer ground than last year when his speech came just weeks after the deadly and chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan had global leaders questioning America’s leadership role in the world. 

Now, U.S. efforts to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia have shown significant signs of progress in recent days after Ukraine reclaimed territory in the northeastern Kharkiv province, in what many observers said could be a decisive shift as the war nears its seventh month. 

Biden will reaffirm the U.S. commitment to help Ukraine defend itself for as long as necessary and call on others to do the same, Sullivan said.

“He’ll offer a firm rebuke of Russia’s unjust war in Ukraine and make a call to the world to continue to stand against the naked aggression that we’ve seen these past several months,” he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address the group virtually Wednesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month he would not attend the meeting.

On China, Biden faces a delicate balancing act as tensions have escalated in recent months. During an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, he said that U.S. forces would defend Taiwan if China invaded, a position criticized by Beijing.

It is at least the fourth time since last year that Biden has made comments that appear to alter long-standing U.S. policy on Taiwan, though White House officials have said there has been no change in the policy.

“We continue to stand behind the “One China” policy, we continue to stand against unilateral changes to the status quo, and we continue to stand for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Sullivan said Tuesday. “The president has reiterated those basic commitments on every occasion that he’s talked about Taiwan.”

The U.S. is bound by law to provide Taiwan with defensive weapons, but it has a policy of “strategic ambiguity” when it comes to exactly how it would respond to Chinese aggression toward the island.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will also be skipping the gathering.

Biden has been working on his remarks in recent days with his speech team and senior advisers and has been “making sure that he communicates what is most important for the American people as it relates to domestic issues, as it relates to how foreign policy issues, international issues affect the American people,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Biden arrived in New York on Tuesday, a day after returning to Washington, D.C., from London where he joined other world leaders in attending Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. 

While in New York, he will meet Wednesday with U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and new British Prime Minister Liz Truss. He will also speak at the Global Fund conference on the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and host a reception with other world leaders at the American Museum of Natural History.

Elyse Perlmutter-Gumbiner contributed.

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